Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Grizzly Delisting and Climate Change

Photo from Wikipedia
Citing the successful restoration of the grizzly population in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho during the last three decades from as few as 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 or more today, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing grizzlies from the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This action, called "delisting," opens up grizzlies to trophy hunters if they wander outside the protected area of Yellowstone National Park … and grizzlies do wander.

Comments from the public are being accepted until May 10, 2016. Naturalist author, Doug Peacock, and many world-renown scientists are objecting to the government’s assertion that the grizzlies will not be harmed by climate change. Grizzlies have three primary food sources: whitebark pine nuts (trees that are now being decimated throughout the west by the mountain pine beetle), cutthroat trout, in rapid decline due to drought and the onslaught of non-native lake trout, and miller moths. Grizzlies can eat up to 40,000 moths a day during the late summer season. The effect of climate change on these moths is uncertain. 
This letter to President Obama from Doug Peacock, challenges the idea that climate change will have no effect on grizzlies and other animals designated as endangered.

Open Letter to President Obama

April 29, 2016

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Obama:
We are writing to thank you for your leadership on climate change and to ask for your help: Yellowstone grizzly bears are in grave danger.
Your administration has regrettably taken steps to strip the bear’s federal protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), opening up a grizzly bear trophy hunt on the edges of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone’s bears are a remnant and isolated population. They must be allowed to wander safely outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Americans would never accept hunting of America’s bald eagle; hunting Yellowstone grizzly bears is equally unacceptable.

To make matters worse, America’s great bears face the same looming threats as many species across the country due to climate change. In the last decade, climate change has decimated the Yellowstone grizzly’s most important food, the white bark pine nut.

Unfortunately, the March 3, 2016, delisting announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) came paired with an astonishing declaration in the Federal Register: “Therefore, we conclude that the effects of climate change do not constitute a threat to the [Yellowstone grizzly bear population] now, nor are they anticipated to in the future.”
This statement is even more disturbing in light of your administration’s commitment to addressing climate change, because climate change predictions are dire for all our planet’s species. How can it be that the military considers climate change in all its decisions, while the agency responsible for our wildlife, the FWS, does not?

The same argument – the denial of climate change – was used by the FWS in 2014 to deny listing the wolverine in the lower 48 states. On April 4, 2016, that decision was reversed in federal court, and declared “arbitrary and capricious.” The FWS was ordered to reconsider its reasoning about climate change. It’s now time for this federal agency to play catch up and use “the best available science” to keep grizzly bears on the ESA list.

A critical question: Who benefits from delisting Yellowstone’s grizzly bears? The only certain outcome of delisting bears will be trophy hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

We ask you to instruct our federal wildlife managers to withdraw the March 3 rule and order the FWS to take another look at how climate change impacts grizzly bears. Any decision about the bear’s future should be put on hold until independent scientific review can explore potential impacts to bears from climate change. We strongly suspect that America’s great bears face a dire future, even with the continued protection of the Endangered Species Act.

Respectfully yours,
Doug Peacock
Author, Guggenheim Fellow

Concerned scientists:
Professor Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology
George B. Schaller, Panthera Corporation and Wildlife Conservation Society
Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace
Michael Soule, Professor Emeritus, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz
Citizens of the Yellowstone ecosystem:
Jeff Bridges, Academy Award-winning actor
Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia, Inc.
Michael Finley, Former superintendent Yellowstone National Park
Carl Hiaasen, Journalist, author
Michael Keaton, Academy Award-winning actor
Tom McGuane, American Academy of Arts & Letters
N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize winner
Terry Tempest Williams, Author and Guggenheim Fellow
Ted Turner, Philanthropist and conservationist
Download the Letter (PDF)

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